The ABCs of Cruising

A is for anchoring. Look for sand when you can see the bottom. Never underestimate the importance of having a good anchor and enough chain unless you don’t care about sleeping. Having another anchor is good when a storm is coming or tides are strong and you need to stay put.

B is for bitch wings. The stance used on deck when someone anchors Way too close. Place hand on hips and stare intently. They will usually move unless they are charter captains who don’t care about the boats because they don’t pay the bills. If someone shows you their bitch wings it’s time to re-anchor. Most will adhere to the code of whoever gets there first has priority over who stays and who goes.

C is for comfort. Nice cushions, protection from spray, a good fridge and freezer so you can eat well, and anything else that makes you happy. Unlike race boats, you can be very comfortable while cruising unless you are bashing upwind in big waves. Then all bets are off.

D is for Ditch Bag. The bag with all the things you need in an emergency if the ship goes down. We place it on deck for passages and hope to never use it. Cats are generally safer as if one hull has a bad leak the other will still float. The exception to this is a fire. Otherwise the rule of thumb is always step up to a life raft, not down.

E is for eating. It’s a well known fact that Everything tastes better on a boat. Because you never know when you’ll get to eat that again.

F is for fishing. Refer to E. Catching fish facilitates eating well. Plus it’s high up on the Mediterranean diet which is now rated the healthiest diet of all.

G is for GPS. Having it has made cruising a million times easier in terms of navigating. Knowing where you are is a life saver. We have 3 back ups. Just in case.

H is for helpfulness. The cruising community tends to be extremely helpful towards each other. Complete strangers will help others in the middle of the night if need be. This is so refreshing and comforting compared to being on land.

I is for the ice maker. The greatest luxury ever invented for boats! It’s also a way to make friends with Brits and others who think they don’t need ice but love it when you bring it to their boat. In a pinch it can even be used for bartering.

J is for jury rig. There’s always something that needs fixing and oftentimes you have to be creative. Stores like West Marine are few if non existent anywhere but the states.

K is for Kraken. A mysterious sea monster that plays tricks on us. It’s left the ice maker door open, thrown clothes overboard, let a windsurfer get away while underway, hid a precious cord that’s needed for watching movies, and once it drank all the rum. We’ve seen traces like footprints and have heard it stealing ice in the middle of the night therefore we know it’s real.

L is for latitude. Where are we now, where are we going? Closer to the equator please. Less clothes, more turtles, and better swimming.

M is for Mexican Train Dominoes. Having board games is a fun way to relax and entertain. They also bring out the best and the worst depending on the game and the quantities and types of alcohol consumed.

N is for navigating. Good instruments and charts are priceless. Knowing where you are is a good thing. Having the skills and desires to go from location to a new location is fun, challenging, and keeps you on your toes.

O is for the oceans. They are big, wide, majestic, and must be crossed to get to new countries, islands, and adventures. When in the middle of one you are reminded how tiny we are in this huge magnificent galaxy. It’s breathtaking and just a wee bit daunting if you let your imagination run wild. This is where having good instruments and weather info is a huge priority.

P is for pirates. We haven’t seen or met any but we know they’re out there. Lock the dinghy, hide the good stuff, but no guns. We’ll take our chances by giving them everything in exchange for life if we ever have the misfortune of being boarded. And we’ll stay away from places that are desperate for food and money.

Q is for questions. Asking others is a great way to learn things like where to go, how to fix something, what’s for dinner, and where the heck did I put that?

R is for reefs. Two kinds. Reefing the main before it’s too late is always the goal. Hitting a reef is a nightmare.

S is for snorkeling. Refer to the letter R. This is the preferred way to experience a reef. S is also for swearing. You need to do it now and then to prove you are a sailor.

T is for tonnage. Either you have it or you don’t. It’s important to know.

U is for underwear. Seldom needed when cruising. Buy the good stuff though because hanging them on the life lines is how they dry and all your neighbors will see them.

V is for VHF. The radio can be turned on to listen to fellow boaters, cruiser nets, emergencies, and chatter in other languages. Use channel 16 for making initial contact with another boat, ship, or for an emergency. Use channel 68 for ship to ship and many cruisers nets held most mornings in frequented anchorage’s. Once you make the initial contact select another channel to communicate. But don’t think for one second it’s private. Radio stalkers love to listen in to your conversation. Think of it as party line and go with the flow.

W is for weather. It dictates everything else. Whether you stay, go, which anchorage has protection, and which sails to use. Knowing what’s coming is the key to good planning. Being surprised still happens but it’s less frequent if you have something like the PredictWind app. We can’t imagine cruising without it.

X is for marking the spot. With electronic charts this is easy breezy. Talking to fellow cruisers with phone in hand you can mark the spots on your Navionics charts when others share good info.

Y is for just saying yes. Keep yourself open for new experiences, people, places, and take yourself out of that comfort zone. You’ll be glad you did.

Z is for Zulu. Knowing the phonetic alphabet is a good thing for radio communications especially in other countries.

2 thoughts on “The ABCs of Cruising”

  1. I had the pleasure of meeting you guys at the fuel dock at South Seas on Captiva Monday. When heading home, cutting through Matanzas Pass, I was thrilled to see El Gatto riding the hook, right around the bend from my Cape Dory 40. We exchanged mast heights, mine is 54′ and theirs is 74′. Enjoy your travels, looking forward to catching up with you in November at the Hobie race week!


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